Kudos on catching up with the digital age by turning the annual Property Income and Expense Return from a pile of paper to a digital submission form.
If only your team had made this move with a little more field testing and emphasis on making it user-friendly. It would make the bureaucrats of the Byzantine Empire smile to see some of the complexity that’s been created.
I wrote recently about how important it is for owners of commercial, industrial and multi-residential properties to ensure their submission of property rental income and expense information directly to MPAC is as accurate as possible. It can, after all, have a direct impact on a property’s assessed value, what it could ultimately pay in property taxes, make sure one property is not paying too much in relation to the competition, and the capital value of the asset for the owner.
It’s common for commercial, industrial and institutional buildings to offer various inducements to attract and retain tenants. The net effect is lease terms in the same building may vary by a wide margin. While the new MPAC form does contain many fields for, among other things, tenant inducements, these fields don’t necessarily match up, item by item, with a landlord’s financial statements. Whoever is filing the return must make some estimations, or decide how to group some expenses together.
This leads to the first issue with the new online system.
Many property owners have a fiscal year-end of Dec. 31. The Property Income and Expense Return has a March 31 deadline, when many owners are still in the midst of year-end financial audits. It’s an annual scramble to meet this filing deadline and to do it right.
With the paper system, that wasn’t a big deal – if you were late, you were late.
But when one of my colleagues earlier this week tried to log back into the system at www.aboutmyproperty.ca to complete the return for some of our properties after the March 31st date, she was blocked. The system had already kicked over to 2017. “You can’t file until you receive your 2017 assessment notice,” read the popup. For most commercial properties in Ontario, those won’t arrive until the fall.
She could no longer access other information we need to generate certain reports, either.
It took 30 minutes on the phone with an MPAC support person who tried to tell her “Oh, it should work” and “maybe you just forgot your password” (she hadn’t), before the mess was sorted out.
Getting locked out of the system after the filing deadline is troublesome, to say the least.
The other issue is one of accessibility, not just with this new Income and Expense Return online form, but with the MPAC portal in general.
In my role, I often create files on AboutMyProperty with MPAC for my client’s properties, under my account and login credentials. For obvious confidentiality reasons, I don’t want to share my login with a client. But the way the system is designed now, the client (or, depending on the circumstances, their third-party property manager) can’t directly access that file in the MPAC system to report the Income/Expense data – if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, or retired and my Regional Group email was deactivated, these clients would be cut off from their file.
It was a nice try, MPAC, but you missed. This new online system needs some overhaul and further field testing with industry before the 2017 filing deadline.
To discuss this or any other valuation topic in the context of your property, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also interested in your feedback and suggestions for future articles.